Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Return of the Witch-Hunter

Islamophobia, unlike the proverbial shit, doesn't just happen. A lot of money and work go towards making it happen.

In his enormously insightful essay, The Return of the Witch-Finder (10/3/11), prompted by Republican (NY) congressman Steve King's current hearing into the 'Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community & that Community's Response','s Justin Raimondo exposes the re-emergence of a same old, same old industry dedicated exclusively to the whipping up of fear and hysteria among the ignorant and the gullible. Here's my abridged version of Raimondo's superb and timely analysis:

"During the cold war era... [n]umerous right-wing groups sprang up whose only apparent function was to catalogue and 'expose' manifestations of the Commie Menace operating in our midst... [These] professional anti-communists, many of them ex-Communists of one sort or another, created a cottage industry out of their disillusionment: they wrote books, went on lecture tours, set up a multitude of organizations, and made lucrative careers out of the cause. Their ultimate goal, to get on the government payroll, was achieved in all too many instances. The national security apparatus, which was then beginning to burgeon into its present bloated size, was primed to absorb them, with such ex-leftists as Jay Lovestone, former national secretary of the Communist Party, going to work for the CIA. The anti-Communist propaganda apparatus that sprang up in the wake of the cold war deployed platoons of embittered ex-communists and former Trotskyites and gave gainful employment to an entire generation of embittered ex-leftist intellectuals who, otherwise unemployable, would have ended their days sitting in the corner bar, drowning their memories of disillusion and betrayal in drink. Those who didn't manage to weasel their way into government jobs were taken in by right-wing think-tanks, and magazines such as National Review - whose chief editorial contributors, from the very beginning, were recruited from among this league of tattle-tales and turncoats.

"With the sudden implosion of the Soviet Empire, all these people were out of business: like many real estate agents in the wake of the housing bust, these former 'experts' in a field that no longer had much money in it had to find other work - a new bubble, and a new scam, with which to entice a fresh crop of suckers/customers. The first years of the post cold-war era were not promising, and they were indeed lean years for the witch-hunters. There was no enemy, no Satan-with-a-sword, with enough stature or menace to constitute a credible threat - and, therefore, no internal 'fifth column' to vilify, hunt down, and prosecute. What's a witch-hunter to do? The 9/11 terrorist attacks solved that problem for them quite neatly. The new Enemy: Muslims. The Fifth Column: the many Muslim organizations, and the several thousand mosques in the US, along with the entire Muslim-American population. The witch-hunt was back on, and there was more money in it than ever. An entire 'homeland security' industry grew like kudzu, fed and carefully nurtured with lucrative government contracts and the post 9/11 hysteria that gripped the nation and validated a veritable flood of federal dollars poured into projects with little or no congressional oversight. The industry is still growing by leaps and bounds, perhaps the only sector of the economy which is experiencing a boom at this point.

"Most of these corporate entities are involved with the development of various high-tech snooping devices, 'cyber-warfare', and recruiting mercenaries, but a vital and growing subset are the propaganda outfits. These often assume an air of semi-objectivity, like Steven Emerson's 'The Investigative Project on Terrorism', whose very name combines the imagery of both journalism and law enforcement. Others are openly ideological, like the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, whose founder and director, Dr Zuhdi Jasser, was Rep. Steve King's star witness at the anti-Muslim show hearings which opened on Thursday. In his testimony, Dr Jasser singled out his rivals among the various Muslim groups as little more than a jihadist fifth column... This is always the method of the Grand Inquisitors: create a fifth column within the alleged 'fifth column'... While repeating his talking points, he kept coming back to one particular point: how 'we' (ie the government) have to come up with the 'resources' (ie tax dollars) to conduct the 'war of ideas' against the Bad Guys... Give us the 'resources', give us the 'drive' and a 'platform' - and that is precisely what the King hearings aim at, aside, of course, from instilling in the public the idea that Muslims are a dangerous fifth column who may one day have to be interned and at the very least closely watched...

"As in the past, foreign influences and interests figure in the witch-hunt. Dr Jasser, besides being Rep. King's star witness, was the star of a film entitled The Third Jihad, which purports to 'prove' that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated all aspects of American life, and poses a serious threat of installing an Islamic government in the United States, with shariah law as the law of the land. The film, along with another one, Obsession, was financed by the Clarion Fund, a 'charity' run by Aish HaTorah, which Nation writer Sarah Posner describes as 'one of Orthodox Judaism's most successful outreach programs'. The group, international in scope, has its headquarters in Jerusalem, where the Israeli government has awarded it 40% of the land facing the Western Wall. On one of its websites, dedicated to preventing intermarriage between Jews and people of other faiths, Aish HaTorah notes: 'As one Israeli official explained why Aish HaTorah was chosen to receive these two prestigious locations, 'Unless we get today's youth to identify with our heritage, who will make Aliyah, who will buy Israeli bonds, who will support the Federation drives? Aish HaTorah is doing the job!' The Israeli government funds Aish HaTorah's extensive 'outreach' programs, as well as its international headquarters, including its propaganda activities in the US. No doubt the extremist government now in power in Tel Aviv considers the anti-Muslim sentiment stoked by Jasser and his ideological bedfellows to be a fertile field indeed, to be harvested for all it's worth. The King hearings are a propaganda triumph for the Israeli government, and the Israelis are in the background of this movement, encouraging and even indirectly funding it, as in the case of the Aish HaTorah-Clarion Fund connection. In this way, some of the $3 billion a year we ship to Israel is being used to shape American public opinion and government policy. What with the Park 51 controversy and the recent uptick in anti-Muslim rhetoric by such finger-in-the-wind opportunists as Newt Gingrich (whose film, America at Risk, also featured Dr Jasser), the witch-hunt has been gathering steam in recent days. The King hearings are the culmination of a well-planned and well-financed campaign by foreign interests to foist a ridiculous conspiracy theory on the American public - a conspiracy theory, I'm sad to say, that has resonance with all too many Americans."

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